Uisge by Kerry Lane
Winner of the 2022 Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature Robert Burns Poetry Prize
The long way home is the way of water.
My family folds up across oceans;
blood stories, these journeys, end to end of the century.
Here day, there night. Raining in both.
My childhood is built on a floodplain;
my inheritance its draining, an emptiness of trees,
the first glint of ocean from the Hurunui road,
pale hands on kawakawa stone.
Before glaciers laid out the Canterbury Plains,
people lived on the Clyde. The water braided into the Rakaia
has a name older than itself. My name,
and my brother’s, hold the same distance.
I am following the river home. I am going home.
This new old place will be a home. There is an always home,
there must be an always home—
I think the digging out of a home—
I pack my books, my beat-up boots, my toki.
I hope this old Clyde will see through
me to my grandfather, this old name.
I hope the awa will remember me.
I fold away the birds, my breath,
the mānuka beneath the elm,
the light dripping down the peninsula,
the patch-stripped hills,
the pewter sky, the aching sea.
Remote Reunion by Joan Blessing
Mother at the upper left corner
Her offspring fill in the grid
Screenshot of a far-flung family
The access code had contained
the father’s birth date. It’s a sign
the mother said, he’s still with us
Nobody spoke of the other absence
the empty square below the collage
of vibrant faces. The mother homes in
on that space, the one that stayed dark
Too many nouns by S J Mannion
I am long made
In that order.
Bearing in mind, I added these to daughter sister
(and even sometimes lover thief bitch liar).
Not to mention I am also cook servant nurse jailor.
I could go on…
I myself am getting crowded out.
There are too many nouns.
COVID-19 by Mark Chartier
I was wiping away the sawdust
from the new kitchen sink we put in
when you walked in with groceries,
said the only meat they had left was bologna
and checked the deadbolt three times.
“War is coming.”
You stepped in all the steps I made
impression-ed by the debris
until you leaned over the sink,
ran your finger along the lip
and told me I missed some.
You’ve been drinking more tap water recently,
taking care, shy of habit
pacing the hallway at night
every time you hear the wind catch our screen door.
And I only notice when you come back to bed,
lay on top of the comforter,
waiting for me to ask so you can give me a widowed response.
“Our maybes always turn into nevers.”
Pulling my palm over your stomach.
Dear Amy without an “A”,
I love the way you don’t,
when your lips sequester
as you press pause and kayfabe the moment,
the evangelism of your eyes
that TKO me
and tell me I’m more work than chewing stones.
You, diagnosing the truth with the interception of my wait.
My arms are harder to break
when they’re wrapped around you.
It’s been six days
since I’ve self-quarantined
and the questions are more than the answers can handle.
I’m wondering if my students are reading
the passages I assigned them about the health perks to eating bananas
or if they’re believing the television optics
of the invisible disease of politics
and that people really do care about more
than just a toilet paper stash.
It’s been six days,
and I’m still asymptomatic
since my test came back positive
and I wish I could burn a cigarette
and asphyxiate on the ask of ashes
that inoculate the fever of our bedroom.
But when you came back to bed last night
and fell asleep before me
I fleeced my fingers about your lips
as though I was creating a new emotion
somewhere between pleasure and pursuit
You are the coefficient of love.
And I decided if I’m unable to breathe,
let my final excess
be watching your lips
until you wake up coughing again.
A diabetic pandemic fact attack by Juliette Hart
Thank you, diabetes…
…for relentlessly reminding me of the fragility of health:
how something unseen, such a small thing, can bring
hostility and uncertainty, a sugar-coated sting.
It’s a fact that it doesn’t take much
to affect the balancing act of this condition,
but systemic limitation is the perfect preparation for a pandemic.
Restrictions? Abstinence? I’m used to that. I’ve got it covered.
I’m not bothered by moderation, reduction or the
introduction of endless instruction.
It’s a misconstruction that diabetes is a doomed disease:
if you digest the facts, react, there’s much that you
can do to delay destruction.
In the supermarket of my life I have to queue: list assess
test inject before I eat, or wait for glucose levels
to climb up, sometimes wait until they drop.
Panic buying? I’m guilty
of that but it’s a medical fact:
I really do need those Jelly Babies.
I wear a metaphorical mask to disguise the fear
that’s always there,
but behind that mask
is the worry of how to carry
a chronic disease,
to live well with a hidden threat
and so far I’m not failing.
With deference to my risk tolerance, it’s making a difference.
Keep your distance and dodge the damage,
whether that’s staying a metre or two away or
keeping blood sugar levels in range for most of the day.
Test and trace? For Type 1s that’s always been in place. Stay safe.
Also from Juliette Hart, going back nearly two years…
GROUNDHOG DiArY: extracts from the first 21 weeks
“I overheard someone saying two weeks of lockdown would be a nightmare but I think it would be bloody brilliant to have time to read, write, chill…”
Monday 2nd March 2020
1st case of COVID-19 confirmed / Why are people still going away on holiday? / The gym smelt so strongly of disinfectant but I did not feel safe / I worry that I will run out of moisturiser / Mixed a martini, no lemons to twist, used a satsuma instead / Too many messages / Already we have no idea which day of the week it is / On this afternoon’s walk the moon was profoundly visible in the clear blue sky / Finally, I’ve had time to complete the poem / 8am is the new 7.15 / Forget-me-nots, everywhere.
Cleared out the cocktail cupboard: expired Baileys, flat cider, a full bottle of Bells / Poured my first G&T of the lockdown / Mistimed my evening walk and got soaked / There is a trolley dance in the aisles, sometimes you get boxed in, if you forget something it has to be really essential (like chocolate biscuits) to dare to double back / Today’s soundtrack was every neighbour moving [sic] their lawn in succession / Took a walk around the cemetery, discovered a field I never knew existed.
Is today the pinnacle? / It seems such a special time, the green light on my morning walk, the birdsong teasing the silence / Nature has its perfect placing, and it will not last / Popped open some pink fizz / Quality TV, not quantity / A day earmarked for writing, but first…
For the first time I felt less scared / Nobody need know that I’ve worn this t-shirt for 2 nights and 2 days / We’re now allowed to socially distance with 2 people outside of those we live with / On the plus side, I haven’t had toothache today / I’ve been doodling… the circle’s almost complete / Today, finally, I have a feeling of calm / The bees are oblivious, it’s business as usual for them / This garden is my horizon / Finding a long expired tin of anchovies was exciting / Fresh lettuce and white radishes picked for teatime / Is it the weekend? I had no idea.
I have lost weight / Delivery of food may be the highlight of the day / Too tired for a(nother) takeaway but ate it somehow / I’ve started to read Wolf Hall / I don’t ask for much, just one whole day to myself / Entertaining – what does it mean? / Ventured into town, only 3.5 shop assistants were wearing masks / Too many distractions, too much is expected of me, I need to find time for EVERYTHING.
I have a much lower risk tolerance / How resilient I am.
Joan Blessing lives in New York City. Originally from Ohio, she spent many years in Central New Jersey where she raised a family, worked in publishing and public policy, and began to learn the craft of poetry. She continues to work on her craft along with crossword puzzles, Word Cookies, and Wordle. Her writing has appeared in Pine Song, Kakalak, and moonShine review, among other publications.
Mark Chartier developed symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome when he was seven years old but persevered thanks to positive relationships with school staff. He went on to earn two masters degrees despite suffering from several disabilities including stuttering and a brain injury. He now teaches special education in Pueblo, Colorado. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mark has had to alter his instructions and relationship-building with students, forcing him to evolve as a teacher and learn how to reach students in creative and innovative ways through the remote setting. He gives motivational speeches at conferences and universities, sharing his triumphs as a student with disabilities and how they led him to become a teacher of students with disabilities. His first collection of poetry, Fingerprints (Turning Point) was published in 2018 and mirrors his successes with those of his students in overcoming disabilities, abuse and mental illness. For more information, please visit: www.markchartier.com
Juliette Hart is a Jersey-born poet who has lived on the island for 50 of her 55 years. Published in many anthologies, she is co-founder of La Poèt’tie, an open mic poetry collective. From dolmen to castle, bunker to beach, this little rock in the English Channel inspires her. She has managed Type 1 Diabetes for 40 years – the restrictions of which prepared her, in part, for coping with this pandemic. Of her accompanying bio image, she says: ‘In my mouth and right eye I am displaying flash glucose sensors – they are inserted into the arm to continuously track blood glucose levels and are some of the most recent, and most life changing, tech available to those with this chronic disease.’
Kerry Lane is a poet, playwright and teacher from Aotearoa New Zealand, now based in Glasgow. She was the founding director of theatre companies Sacrilege and Little Scorpion, and has had twelve plays produced to date. Lane holds degrees in genetics, psychology and teaching, reflecting a curious and science-minded approach to the world that strongly informs her poetry. Her poetry and short fiction have been published in Landfall and art–science interface journal SEISMA, among others, and has been performed at events around Aotearoa. Her current poetic work explores ideas of home, place and immigrant identity. Most recently, she received the Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature Robert Burns Poetry Prize for her poem ‘Uisge’.
S J Mannion is an Irish writer living in Aotearoa New Zealand. When she can she writes, when she can’t she reads. In between she ukuleles.